Practicing Survival Skills When You Live in an Urban Setting

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Survival skills have always played an important role in staying prepared for the worst-case scenarios of life. While over the last several centuries our species has migrated toward city living and urban spaces, the focus on the tools needed to overcome and recover from disaster hasn’t really made the trip with us. Indeed, survival training is still usually undertaken with a trip out into the wilderness.   

Yet, the dangers that occur in the depths of the woods don’t necessarily reflect how most people are likely to experience a fight for survival. Recent studies have revealed that natural disasters are on the rise around the globe, meaning that when the worst strikes, it is likely to hit you where you live and work. 

So, let’s take a closer look at how you can best go about practicing survival skills in an urban setting. 

Understand the Risks

In the wilderness, survival techniques often revolve around understanding how the environment around you can change. A similar approach can be taken when prepping in urban environments. It begins with taking stock of where you are likely to be during a disaster, and what form those threats are likely to take. It’s not practical to prepare for all possible scenarios, but you can prioritize. 

Take stock of the common disaster scenarios for the geographical location you are in. Do you live on or near a faultline that experiences severe earthquakes? Are you living by an ocean or river that can be prone to flooding? Make a list of occurrences in order of likelihood and consider the types of issues that can arise from these events. States such as Texas and Ohio, for instance, tend to be more prone to severe weather events like tornados. This means that planning needs to include not just avoidance of the storm itself and seeking shelter, but also the damage repair in the aftermath.

You should then consider how you and your family may be affected depending on where in the urban landscape you happen to be at the time. If you all happen to be at home, what will you need? If you or your partner are at work and the kids at school, how will each of those environments present potential risks? Don’t forget that if you own a local business, the disruption that you might experience can represent the need for both practical and financial survival mechanisms for you, your employees, and your family. The more you can predict the potential consequences that arise in urban areas, the better able you’ll be to plan and practice for them. 

Immediate Needs

One of the priorities for any survival situation is taking care of your immediate needs. While some of these are likely to be the same in urban environments, how you approach them is likely to be different. Therefore your practice should include the following areas: 

  • Water Access

You can go for several days without food, but your wellbeing can start to deteriorate rapidly if you are without access to clean water for more than a day or so. While there are often sources of water in urban environments, disasters in this area may find you restricted to movements, and water sources may become contaminated. You can get at-home water pollution testing strips, and you should periodically take time to test the levels evident at home and in your place of business. This not only helps you to gain an understanding of your current water quality so that you can make improvements now, it also gives you insights into whether you need to buy portable filtration kits and practice how to use them.

  • First Aid

During urban emergencies, there may come a time when you have to administer first aid to yourself or a member of your family. Attending a general course that provides you with knowledge of basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and sling or bandage application is a good start. However, it’s also important to spend some time rehearsing procedures that could help during urban emergencies. For instance, if your location sees a lot of wildfires, you should be practicing methods to counter eye irritation and smoke inhalation, as these are more common than burns

Shelter and Safety 

The wilderness is indeed more likely to see you without shelter in an emergency. However, that doesn’t mean to say that urban landscapes don’t present challenges here. When natural or man-made disasters occur in cities, the buildings that we previously considered safe may be structurally unsound. As such, your preparation should include learning and practicing skills that can help here. 

In most cases, your urban disaster is likely to result in only minor structural damage may need some temporary repair work to make it safe to live in until recovery is underway. But, in case there is significant destruction of property, spend your preparation time learning about how your house is constructed — how the foundations have been made, what materials have been used in the framing, where the load-bearing joists are. Then take some time to learn how to make temporary but serviceable repairs. Gaining this knowledge in advance also helps you to know when your home is not safe to live in even temporarily, and you must find alternative accommodation.   

This is where you start to build a robust but agile escape plan for you and your family. Familiarize yourself with the viable routes of exit from your home, and identify obstacles that might make them problematic. You can even do a few drills to confirm what ways out are workable, and where you need to make alterations. Get in contact with your local city, too, to gain information on where allocated shelters are in case of emergency, and plan how you can get to them via different routes. 


As the potential for natural disasters grows, so too does the need to make preparations for survival in urban areas. Take time to review what is likely to occur in your location, and make plans for addressing immediate needs. Gain some key insights into your home so that you can respond to damage appropriately and keep your family safe.

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